1910 Rolls-Royce 40/50 H.P.
Year of manufacture1910
Making its debut at the 1906 Olympia Motor Show, the 40/50 HP chassis – commonly known as the Silver Ghost – remains the bedrock of the Rolls-Royce mystique. Immediately acclaimed by the press and buyers alike, the 40/50 HP model’s capabilities were ably demonstrated by a succession of record-setting long-distance tours, rallies, and publicity events orchestrated by Rolls-Royce Managing Director Claude Johnson. An outright success, the 40/50 was produced until 1925 when the new Phantom succeeded it. Admired by automotive connoisseurs since its launch, all surviving examples are carefully documented by marque experts and coveted by serious collectors. Silver Ghosts built prior to the outbreak of WWI are the most sought-after, with the earliest parallel-bonnet cars exemplifying the stately elegance of the original Rolls-Royce design. In all, 6,173 Silver Ghosts were built, and each was revered for its reliability, silent operation, and driving ease, characteristics that have endured for well over 100 years.
The 1910 Silver Ghost offered here, chassis 1392, stands alone in its grandeur, originality, condition, and design. One of the finest surviving Silver Ghosts anywhere in the world, the coachwork crafted by S & A Fuller Coachworks of Bath, England, is one of the most regal and impressive of its kind extant. Its wondrous details reveal themselves slowly over an extended inspection. The wooden window casements and curved corner windows and the contours of the double limousine’s coach-lines dazzle the senses. The subtle expansion of the width of the rear compartment extends past the doors and concludes in the tulip-shaped rear line, which is fully exposed as it was specified without a luggage carrier. Noted Silver Ghost authority Jonathan Harley, author of the Dalton Watson volume, The Silver Ghost: A Supernatural Car, perhaps best described 1392 upon seeing it on display at an RROC gathering in 1964 – “It was unlike any car I had previously encountered, a fairy tale, luxury first-class railway carriage with its own engine and bonnet. Such was its magnificence, the term ‘motor car’ seemed totally inadequate as a means of describing such a glorious creation.”
“The Fuller,” as it is affectionately known in Rolls-Royce circles, was ordered new by Mr. J. Douglas Fletcher, Esq., of Avoch, Scotland, and the chassis was dispatched to the coachbuilder on October 19, 1910. The Rolls-Royce was further specified with brass fittings throughout and is believed to be the first Silver Ghost to be fitted with electric lights. Copies of the numerous factory test cards and maintenance records remain with the car, and document particulars including tire selection, steering rake, spring rate, and gear ratios, as well as maintenance and repairs performed by factory mechanics in great detail through 1913. Upon Mr. Fletcher’s passing in 1929, the car was sequestered in a darkened building on the Black Isle of Scotland.
Chassis 1392 remained undisturbed in storage for 25 years before being purchased from the Fletcher estate, preserved just as it had been stored, including its original interior, which it retains to this day.
This period of storage, and its remarkable reemergence, earned 1392 another apt nickname: “Mary Rose.” The name is borrowed from a J.M. Barrie short story in which a young girl by that name vanishes during a family vacation on a Hebridean island, only to reappear years later without having aged.
Numerous US- and UK-based collectors have enjoyed 1392 in their collections since its discovery, and each has taken great care in preserving its originality and character, as refinishing appears to have been kept to an absolute minimum. The interior is adorned with an extremely rare and beautiful quad-faced Elliott instrument array, which is complemented by a double- faced Elliott in the rear compartment, making 1392 among the first cars to include rear instrumentation. A speaking tube remains intact ensuring clear communication from the rear to the front compartments. The original seat cloth and cushions are remarkably intact, as are the headliner, carpets, and privacy shades. Above the retractable window panes, subtle air-ventilation controls remain in place, just as installed by the coachbuilder.
The Silver Ghost joined the consignor’s extensive collection in 2006, following years of admiration from afar. Its only color combination since new, the Silver Ghost’s fenders are still finished in black, with claret-maroon coachwork. Soon after its arrival, the Fuller was carefully brought back to concours standards, with the utmost care given to conservation of its materials and finishes. Today, 1392 is a wonder to behold, and it has earned class awards at Amelia Island and at the Pebble Beach Concours, where it received the coveted Lucius Beebe Award, which is given to the Rolls-Royce “most in the Lucius Beebe tradition.” This is especially appropriate, as Mr. Beebe was a bon vivant who notably traveled by private Pullman car in similar grand style to the Fuller. The owner has also driven 1392 regularly, and remarks that its road manners are impeccable, with the chassis retaining its engineered smoothness. He had the wooden wheels remade in the pattern of the originals in recent years, using the original hubs, as the factory-supplied wooden spokes had finally failed to keep within an acceptable tolerance.
As wonderful as 1392 is to experience on static display, its true character is revealed onboard, once underway, whether behind the wheel or ensconced in the passenger compartment. Having taken part in numerous rallies in the UK, the Fuller moves with alacrity and authority, and one cannot help but reflect on how the scenery has changed around this car for more than 110 years , yet it endures.
This amazing automobile, undeniably one of the most important early Rolls-Royce cars anywhere in the world, is a monument to the excellence that the Company has espoused since its inception. Lighter, shorter, and more beautiful and sporting than its sister, “The Corgi”, this spectacular Silver Ghost is a crowning centerpiece of any conceivable collection, regardless of focus. “The Fuller” represents a strong and irreplaceable connection to a grand and opulent world, much as Rolls-Royce still does today. Gooding & Company invites your close inspection of this wonderful machine.